Susan Kihika, Tabitha Karanja turf war threatens to split UDA in Nakuru

Susan Kihika and Tabitha Karanja

Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika (left) and Nakuru Senator Tabitha Karanja. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The turf war between two leaders has driven a wedge between their respective supporters.
  • The two have turned against each other, with their differences degenerating into a full-scale political combat.

A vicious political battle between Nakuru Governor Susah Kihika and Senator Tabitha Karanja is threatening to split the ruling United Democratic Party (UDA) right down in the middle.

The turf war between the two leaders has also driven a wedge between their respective supporters in Nakuru County.

The fallout of the two former allies has raised political temperatures in the county.

The bitter rivalry took a new twist on Thursday after Governor Kihika endorsed Nakuru East MP David Gikaria to take on Senator Karanja in the 2027 General Elections.

During the 2022 General Elections, the two campaigned alongside each other and were both elected UDA tickets. 

But the two have since turned against each other, with their differences degenerating into a full-scale political combat.

The land ownership tussle between the Kihika-led county government and Nakuru War Memorial Hospital has further served to escalate the differences between the two leader.

They have engaged in an endless war of words, with the senator accusing the county boss of disrespecting court orders, terming it a recipe for anarchy in the county.

Governor Kihika on her part has poured cold water on her opponent’s contribution in the Senate. She has gone to the extent of promising to support Mr Gikaria to unseat the Senator Karanja.

“The only problem I have in Nakuru is that the senator is not pro-devolution. Instead of using her position as is required by the constitution to push for resources for our county, she is busy name calling on social media and summoning MCAs,” Governor Kihika said in London ward on Thursday.

The supremacy battle between leaders has also split the county leadership.

On Thursday, Governor Kihika launched the tarmacking of roads in the ward accompanied by MP Gikaria and his Nakuru West MP Samuel Arama.

The two legislators accused the Senator of capitalising on the Nakuru War Memorial Hospital saga to build her political profile ahead of the next polls.

“What we’re experiencing in Nakuru is like the turbulence that disrupts flights midair. But like an experienced pilot, we know the Governor's intentions for the people of Nakuru. We’re asking her to continue steering the county and avoid the naysayers,” Mr Gikaria said as he affirmed he was ready to take on the Senator in the 2027 polls.

Senator Karanja raised concerns that Nakuru County ignored court orders, stopping the devolved unit from taking over or interfering with the management of Nakuru War Memorial Hospital, pending the hearing and determination of a suit in court.

"This signals a worrying trend and it must stop," Senator Karanja said.

Governor Kihika is also embroiled in a political contest with other MPs in the county.

The MPs allege sidelining of their regions by the governor's administration as well as differences over claims that she was grooming their political opponents.

The MPs include Paul Chebor (Rongai), Joseph Tanui (Kuresoi South), Jayne Kihara (Naivasha), Martha Wangari (Gilgil) as well as former Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri. 

The anti-Kihika MPs have since unveiled a political outfit dubbed G7 that is supported by Senator Karanja.

“We thought she would unite all of us but she has done the opposite. She has been moving around the county demeaning other elected leaders and sowing seeds of discord,” said Kuresoi North MP Alfred Mutai.

MCAs have also been sucked into the Kihika-Karanja feud, with a sizeable number of them rallying behind the Governor.